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Gender and inequalities in health in later life


  • Arber, Sara
  • Ginn, Jay


Little research attention has been given to examining inequalities in the health of elderly women and men, in spite of their high use of health services and the importance of health to maintaining independence in later life. This paper uses data from the British General Household Survey to analyse the variation in health of elderly women and men by class and material circumstances. Two measures of health are used; self-assessed health and functional disability. Elderly women assess their own health less positively than men, and are seriously disadvantaged compared to men in terms of functional disability. Class based on the individual's own previous main occupation is strongly associated with the two measures of health for elderly women and men at all ages. For elderly women, an 'individualistic' approach, using the women's own last occupation, is compared with the 'conventional' approach of measuring class, which for married women uses their husband's last occupation and for other women their own last occupation. Using the two approaches makes little difference to the strength of association between class and health. Elderly women and men who live in advantaged material circumstances, in terms of income, car ownership and housing tenure, report significantly better health, after controlling for age and class. Level of functional disability is influenced by previous position in the labour market but not current material circumstances. Although elderly women suffer greater morbidity than elderly men, structural inequalities in health are equally pronounced for women and men in later life.

Suggested Citation

  • Arber, Sara & Ginn, Jay, 1993. "Gender and inequalities in health in later life," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 33-46, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:36:y:1993:i:1:p:33-46

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    Cited by:

    1. Guallar-Castillón, Pilar & Redondo Sendino, Áurea & Banegas, José R. & López-García, Esther & Rodríguez-Artalejo, Fernando, 2005. "Differences in quality of life between women and men in the older population of Spain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(6), pages 1229-1240, March.
    2. Walter-Ginzburg, Adrian & Shmotkin, Dov & Blumstein, Tzvia & Shorek, Aviva, 2005. "A gender-based dynamic multidimensional longitudinal analysis of resilience and mortality in the old-old in Israel: the cross-sectional and longitudinal aging study (CALAS)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(8), pages 1705-1715, April.
    3. Gross, Christiane & Schübel, Thomas & Hoffmann, Rasmus, 2015. "Picking up the pieces—Applying the DISEASE FILTER to health data," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 119(4), pages 549-557.
    4. Dalstra, J.A.A. & Kunst, A.E. & Mackenbach, J.P., 2006. "A comparative appraisal of the relationship of education, income and housing tenure with less than good health among the elderly in Europe," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(8), pages 2046-2060, April.
    5. McFadden, E. & Luben, R. & Bingham, S. & Wareham, N. & Kinmonth, A.-L. & Khaw, K.-T., 2009. "Does the association between self-rated health and mortality vary by social class?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 275-280, January.
    6. Matthews, Ruth J. & Jagger, Carol & Hancock, Ruth M., 2006. "Does socio-economic advantage lead to a longer, healthier old age?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(10), pages 2489-2499, May.
    7. Orfila, Francesc & Ferrer, Montserrat & Lamarca, Rosa & Tebe, Cristian & Domingo-Salvany, Antonia & Alonso, Jordi, 2006. "Gender differences in health-related quality of life among the elderly: The role of objective functional capacity and chronic conditions," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(9), pages 2367-2380, November.
    8. Hoffmann, Rasmus, 2011. "Socioeconomic inequalities in old-age mortality: A comparison of Denmark and the USA," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(12), pages 1986-1992, June.
    9. Matthews, Ruth J. & Smith, Lucy K. & Hancock, Ruth M. & Jagger, Carol & Spiers, Nicola A., 2005. "Socioeconomic factors associated with the onset of disability in older age: a longitudinal study of people aged 75 years and over," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(7), pages 1567-1575, October.
    10. Steven G. Prus & Ellen Gee, 2001. "Measuring Differences in the Effect of Social Resource Factors on the Health of Elderly Canadian Men and Women," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 58, McMaster University.
    11. Pandey, Manoj K., 2009. "Labor force participation among Indian elderly: does health matter?," MPRA Paper 15394, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Isabel Correia Dias & Priscila Ferreira & Lígia Costa Pinto & Marieta Valente & Paula Veiga, 2017. "Growing old, unhealthy and unequal: an exploratory study on the health of Portuguese individuals aged 50+," NIMA Working Papers 67, Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho.
    13. Manoj K. Pandey, 2013. "Elderly's Health Shocks and Household's Ex-ante Poverty in India," ASARC Working Papers 2013-01, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
    14. Steven G. Prus & Ellen Gee, 2002. "Gender Differences in the Influence of Economic, Lifestyle, and Psychosocial Factors on Later-life Health," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 76, McMaster University.
    15. Mielck, Andreas, 1998. "Perception of health inequalities in different social classes, by health professionals and health policy makers in Germany and the United Kingdom," Discussion Papers, Research Group Public Health P 98-202, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    16. Sharifah Haron & Deanna Sharpe & Jariah Masud & Mohamed Abdel-Ghany, 2010. "Health Divide: Economic and Demographic Factors Associated with Self-Reported Health Among Older Malaysians," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 31(3), pages 328-337, September.
    17. Roy, Kakoli & Chaudhuri, Anoshua, 2008. "Influence of socioeconomic status, wealth and financial empowerment on gender differences in health and healthcare utilization in later life: evidence from India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(9), pages 1951-1962, May.
    18. Manoj K Pandey, 2009. "Labor Force Participation among Indian Elderly: Does Health Matter?," Working Papers id:1987, eSocialSciences.
    19. Catherine Ross & Ryan Masters & Robert Hummer, 2012. "Education and the Gender Gaps in Health and Mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(4), pages 1157-1183, November.
    20. Denise Muschik & Jelena Jaunzeme & Siegfried Geyer, 2015. "Are spouses’ socio-economic classifications interchangeable? Examining the consequences of a commonly used practice in studies on social inequalities in health," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 60(8), pages 953-960, December.

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